Sunday, June 13, 2010

Formula 1 Race Weekend Memories

Guess who I cheered for at the race?

This weekend’s trip to the Canada Grand Prix in Montreal was a treat for Dave and I, a celebration of his graduation. We knew we wanted to travel to a Grand Prix and had originally hoped to combine it with a trip to Europe and another goal-destination of Dave’s (the NĂ¼rburgring), but the American dollar was weak and the expenses for said trip went well beyond even our “splurge” budget. So, in the end we thought a long weekend to North America’s only 2010 Grand Prix, held in Montreal, seemed like a good compromise.

After investigating ticket prices, hotel availability and logistics for figuring out a city which primarily functions in another language, we decided to book through a Formula 1 travel group and selected a few from which to choose. The one we ended up using, Formulatours.com, seemed to have good ticket and hotel availability with the right level of “extras” for us (not too little, not too much). They took care of the key logistics we needed (ticket package in a desired grandstand, hotel in desired location and airport pickup/dropoff. Plus, they offered a “VIP” party that was to feature an unnamed F1 driver or drivers).

The choice seemed to work well for us – the hotel was convenient to a nice downtown area of Montreal, the Metro passes and convenient Metro (subway) station ensured efficient passage to the track for practice, qualifying and race day. We even enjoyed a “close encounter” with Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovaleinen of Lotus racing at the touring group’s VIP party. As a bonus, Karun Chandhok, a driver with another new team (Hispania), was staying at our hotel, and we were able to see him on our first evening in Montreal and even get his autograph in the hotel lobby before Friday practice.

Another great choice for us was our rental of a unit from Kangaroo.tv. This small device provided race data, video feed and BBC audio commentary in a small electronic unit during practices, qualifying and the race. I liked being able to look up driver standings, view driver video feed, hear the driver/pit lane audio feed and listen to BBC commentary, since the track audio commentary was mostly in French and therefore useless to us. :) Before reserving the device, I ended up tweeting to the company about the size of the audio jack (standard 1/8 inch) and they tweeted back a great tip to bring/use noise-canceling headphones. Based on their speedy and useful reply, we got a handy 1/8 inch jack splitter (so we could share a unit) and used our Bose headphones, which actually worked GREAT during the whole weekend and were very effective at filtering out just the right amount of engine noise and protecting our hearing – no earplugs needed! Loved the experience the device provided, AND I’m very impressed with their effective use of social media to respond to customer inquiries – first class!

Montreal was also a fun place to visit for non-race activities. It had a very “French” atmosphere and was a nice replacement for our non-European vacation. People dressed VERY nicely in this city, which was a bit disconcerting since we brought casual vacation-type clothing. :) The French food was very good, so that was a nice treat that reminded us of our Paris trip many years ago. Reading signs or navigation was somewhat challenging for English speakers, and even street signs were somewhat confusing – good thing we didn't drive here! There was a music festival also going on nearby, and the street activities nearby were nice for exploring and enjoying the atmosphere.